I like this idea alot. 3D printing is the next big thing in manufacturing. Cost are relatively low, and great for one off projects. I would be a little surprised if the cost could stay low enough for large batch projects. As 3D printing grows, I can definitely see it being the way things go for sure.
Though 3d printing is amazing as it is right now it's not practical enough for miniwargaming. It's expensive is the main big issue really. WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY more expensive then the traditional method. It's also not time efficient. 3d printers take hours and hours to make the part and allow the adhesives to dry. Then once that's done then it's congratulations you have 1 figure. Molds are much quicker cheaper and can be used repeatedly for a while. They do wear after time and eventually will need to be replaced but that wouldn't be for a number of years depending on use and pressures and all that. Also if you've ever felt a product that comes out of a 3d printer they're kind of grainy which can be corrected by basically coating it with super glue and letting it dry but it still just has a bit different of a feel to it. I'm of course not bashing on 3d printers I personally think they're great and can't wait to get my hands on my schools but it simply wouldn't be practical or economical for there purposes. Matt can definitely use it in some background in the game though if he hasn't already.
If you are thinking you need to see a big company with stupidly expensive 3D printing technology to get 3D models printed may I suggest you take matters into your own hands and use small cheaper 3D printer like these:
I'm in mechanical engineering and I can assure you all than for the volume Dark potential will need and all, 3D printing is not an option -raw material cost lot more than pewter -it take a really long time to print a large quantity of products -its good for one off and prototyped parts and all because you dont need to machine or cast your part but its ONLY good for one off or very little amount of parts -The final product is not that good at all and not suited to miniature unless you spend $$$ to get a high quality printer -For example with an average printer you can get around .1-.3 mm precision (around .004 -.012 inch) wich is not best suited for detailed models -The finished product is nowhere near as durable as you pewter models garanteed -I guesstimate that if you plan to do around more than 20 miniatures of one type, you are better cast tham because beyond that point it stop being less expensive and you will being to loose money quick -It is sadly not an option to get a cheaper plastic model -and switching to plastic require quite alot of fund, getting a mold for a sprue (wich i would not advise, i would suggest 2-3 sprue per mold but that my own opinion for best cost/efficiency..) can cost fron 40-50.000$ and thats not speaking about the plastic injector wich can cost TONS'O CASH if you get an okay one, still you can commission the casting at least but again you are loosing some on the long run. You would propably need to sell around....30-50.000 cast (educated guess only here really) before making profits each cast honestly.
Interesting 3d printer @ indiegogo http://www.indiegogo.com/veloso3dprinter?a=527566 Specs: Building Area: 150X112X200mm XYZ DLP Projector: 1024X768 (Native) Resolution: 15 to 100 Microns Z - 147 microns XY (XY resolution can be improved by reducing the building area - this will be possible in the kit) Weight: under 15 KG for complete kit Sixe: Desktop printer size Office friendly: low noise (almost nothing)
you do notice that the printer you posted is over 300.000$ /"%"$%"/%Q!!%/%% thats nowhere near competitive with anything to mass produce, the material is also quite costly and it take and awfull long time to print compared to the 30sec to 2 min it take to cast by injection molding (well its varie quite a lot so it could be 5 sec of 10 min but you see what I mean... and pewter casting is also not very long) Really, 3d printing is not an option for models ATM neither is cnc machining, I operated in did programming for CNC and I can 100% sure tell you its NOT a solution Cost can vary from 100 to 300$ just to keep a CNC machine working (per hour), thats not counting the programmer and the operator. With a CNC you do the injections mold not the models (but thats a complicated and long process that I wil not go into...well unless you ask me to explain it )
you do notice that the printer you posted is over 300.000$
from indiegogo hmmm ----------------------------------------------- $1,999 Basic Kit II
Basic Kit I + few mechanical parts (shipping not included) This kit will have the Basic Kit I + the following parts: 1) All necessary motors for the printer 2) The linear actuators 3) Power supply for the controller board and motors 4) Building tray 5) Building head (area that the object is build) With this kit you will have almost everything you need to speed up the process of building our printer. Price After Indiegogo: (2699 USD)
$3,999 Full Kit
Everything you need + 1KG of resin + All necessary tools for assembling!! (Shipping not included) This kit will include everything, from projector to bolts and nuts. You will need just few hours to assemble and run you new 3D Printer. This kit also comes with 1KG of resin, which is enough to print a lot!!! Price After Indiegogo: (to be defined) 13 out of 250 Claimed
HAA I understood it was a fundraising to buy A 3D printer and i was the ones a company I know bought was 20k so WTH 300K Hell of a printer
Seriously, the final product is nowhere near the required quality. Pewter, resin and even plastic are better solutions, they cost a lot less to produce event with the cost of making a mold (it of course always depend on the volume). The printed part is really grainy even compared to pewter and even if you factor in higher quality resin and printer to get a decent result you get rediculous cost for a production level. You speak about constructive criticism but all you do is post links of cheap printers that honestly will lead you nowhere even near an acceptable level. The printer you posted can achieve .45 mm wall thichnes and they even say that at this level it's quite brittle wich is unsuited for models, the material also cost 150$ per kilo wich is quite alot and they dare to mention if the final product is grainy or not. Each part also need to be cleaned with alchool and cured with the sun or light source wich further extend the production time. D'ont overlook time, its is actually quite and important part of a production. Even if you can match the required details to be an acceptable model, the time and cost will kill your production, even if you but 4 of those (rather cool anyway) printer you will never reach and acceptable volume. There is a reason why everyone cast their models and do not buy tons of printers to get the job done, it is not because it's a new thechnology and all that, it is because it's not worth it!
and no i dont know crap about optocode and pmw but you mentionned CNC machining and it's quite literally my bag, i do not personally own a 3d printer but i have seen it in action, i'v seen the final product, did some shopping and even got 40k bits from a little company tha do some 3d bits printing and nah, really it's not worth it. I'm not trying to tell you go home your ideas are crap but 3D printing, a this moment, is not a viable option to make several identical models.